All I knew about Journey to the Savage Planet is that Alex Hutchinson, previously of Ubisoft, was helming the project. After a successful run with Assassin’s Creed III and Far Cry 4, I was willing to dive into his next project on faith alone because I knew he was a talented developer. For the most part, my faith in the team at Typhoon Studios ended up being correct. The studio’s first title is silly and thankfully does an excellent job at not taking itself too seriously – which I’m thankful for.
Journey to the Savage Planet offers several genres from the start and it’s hard to know which one is more dominant. Either you’re exploring, solving puzzles or straight up adventuring through an unknown planet by the name of AR-Y 26. The surface of the planet teems with luscious colours, alien crystals, and odd little critters you’re free to slap during the tutorial. Doing as I’m told; I begin slapping the various creatures I come across and earning carbon from their corpses. Kindred Aerospace wants me to scan and survey the landscape and according to the ship records, I’m an employee of not the first or second-ranked exploration company but somewhere in the middle.
It’s all in the Genes
Looking like a crossbreed between No Man’s Sky and Metroid Prime, the bulk of the story comes from integrated infomercials that offer some insight into the world. That said, there’s a ton mystery to uncover on AR-Y 26 and your unnamed protagonist discovers a lost civilization and a massive tower on the planet that command your attention.
Splicing the DNA of several genres means you’re doing a bit of everything. From the start, a lot of time is spent exploring and mapping the planet. Every creature and every plant you find needs to be scanned and added to your collection. You’ll collect samples too, and collect carbon then head back to your ship to 3D print a trove of items, including weapons and better space suits, as well as new toys to make life easier. However, you won’t have a minimap to help guide you around AR-Y 26, and like in Metroid Prime, discovering the right tool to get into an otherwise inaccessible area is part of the gameplay loop. I’ll take no map over the horrendous map of last year’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order though.
We’re Number 4!
Being an employee of Kindred Aerospace also includes sometimes dealing with unwanted enemies. Combat in Journey to the Savage Planet is rather basic, you unlock a basic pistol and it is disappointing to use with a terrible reload time and limited ammo clip. That’s the least of the issues with combat as aiming is downright clunky and uneven. Through playing the game though, you gain upgrade options that make the pistol a daunting piece of equipment. While the mechanics do improve, they never hit a satisfying note and could use some work.
Visually, Journey to the Savage Planet is an impressive looking game. Split into several different biomes, exploring each one is an exciting ride thanks to the size and layout of each space. The scale took me by surprise and while I had a sense of dread while exploring each area at first, the compass and scaling of the biomes allowed me to breathe and push forward. During the first push into unknown territory, three markers sent me in varying directions and while I was anxious because I didn’t want to get lost, the ease of righting the critical path and getting where I wanted was easy enough.
I’m going on a Journey!
Finding hidden caves, tucked away secrets around the various places on AR-Y 26 is also worth noting because the first time I came across a hidden lava pit, I proceeded to jump without knowing how to get across. However, I soon learned that by 3D printing the correct gear, I returned later on and promptly reached the other side. Given the sense of progression offered in Journey to the Savage Planet, the way you get a bit more powerful and a bit more fluent in navigation.
Lastly, an optional co-op experience is included and while I didn’t get the chance to fully test the mode out, what I did play was a blast. You can play online co-op with another player and explore AR-Y 26 to your heart’s content. However, the host is the one to benefit from another player joining their game as the other player doesn’t gain any materials or progress made in this mode.
Journey to the Savage Planet is a good video game. For the first title from Typhoon Studios, I’m thoroughly impressed and by borrowing from several genres, the familiar ideas play well off each other. Exploring AR-Y 26 is a blast and learning how to get around, upgrading your gear and surviving the unknown is wonderful. Even with a relatively short runtime of 12 hours, I was all in after the first hour as I made my way through a series of caves. Aside from some rough edges and minor bugs, this is one hell of a game to kick off 2020 and one worth checking out.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
- AR-Y 26 is an exciting planet to explore
- Great tone and humour
- Rewarding exploration
- Combat isn’t too deep
- Some minor bugs